Intentional and Unintentional Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS)

0945909001647268645.jpgChildren of divorce normally feel closer to one parent or the other one at different points in their lives. So, Parental Alienation (PA) is usually inevitable. However, Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) is different. The alienating parent drives an emotional wedge between the targeted parent and the children. Additionally, PA is temporary. PAS is permanent. In fact, the emotional damage often endures after children grow up.

Because so much is at stake, a Somerville child custody attorney usually needs to intervene quickly in PAS situations. Decisive action is the only way to contain the emotional damage.

Common PAS Symptoms

Recognizing the symptoms of Parental Alienation Syndrome is often the key to an effective response. Common indications of PAS include:

  • Giving special privileges to a child, such as a later bedtime, while simultaneously disparaging the other parent, with a comment like “I bet Mom/Dad doesn’t let you stay up this late;”
  • Sudden and unilateral schedule changes;
  • Refusing to enforce the parenting time division because the child “doesn’t want to go see Dad;”
  • Making comments like “Mom doesn’t have time for you this weekend because she’s with her new boyfriend;”
  • Scheduling events for the child, like a campout, on the other parent’s weekend; and
  • Making critical remarks about the other parent directly to the children, to a third person while the children are within earshot, or on social media.

It is not always easy to tell the difference between PA, which is serious but not irreparable, and PAS. James Bond author Ian Fleming once wrote that “once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, and thrice is enemy action.” So, repeated misbehavior usually indicates the presence of PAS.

Unintentional PAS

Some targeting parents honestly do not want to damage the relationship between the targeted parent and the children. They simply do not understand the damage that the aforementioned misbehaviors do to the parent-child relationship.

A letter from an attorney often puts a stop to unintentional PAS. Once these targeting parents understand the situation, they often voluntarily modify their behaviors.

If the matter goes to court, unintentional PAS normally does not mandate a custody or visitation change. Frequently, this outcome is not what the movant wants anyway. Instead, the judge often adds additional injunctions to the existing orders. These injunctions prohibit things like the conduct discussed above.

Intentional PAS

In extreme cases, intentional PAS could lead to more serious matter, including, ultimately, parental kidnapping. Additionally, malicious targeting parents are unwilling to voluntarily change their behavior, at least in most cases. Therefore, judges are much more willing to intervene in these situations.

Generally, judges order social services investigations in contested PAS cases. Social workers know how to recognize intentional PAS, and they know how dangerous it is. So, they account for Parental Alienation Syndrome in their custody and visitation recommendations. These recommendations are not binding on the judge, but they are very weighty.

Intentional PAS situations are no time for self-help remedies. Without immediate correction, the emotional damage gets worse.

Reach Out to a Compassionate Attorney

Parental Alienation Syndrome often permanently disrupts a parent-child relationship. For a confidential consultation with an experienced New Jersey divorce lawyer, contact Katherine K. Wagner, Attorney at Law. Convenient payment plans are available.


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